As the rankings stand now, it’s likely that the Heat won’t scrape up enough wins to earn a seat in this year’s postseason—let alone a decent shot at the NBA title like they somehow managed in September. While I may agree that the Heat’s appearance in last year’s Finals was nothing short of a miracle, I still think their performance this season has been, well, surprisingly bad. COVID-related absences and injuries might be partially to blame for frustrating their momentum, but still, they are not playing with any kind of semblance to a team that lost Game 6 in the Finals just a few short months ago against the same Lakers that are currently tied for third in the West. Right now, the Heat are 15-17, and of those 17 losses, many of them have been against teams that were playing without their leading scorers (i.e. Clippers).
If I was Pat Riley, I’d be right back at the drawing board. Especially as the trade deadline approaches, there are a few easy trades that I think would be beneficial for the team moving forward. The first is the easiest: get rid of Duncan Robinson. Robinson has gained a lot of recognition in the league as an all-time three-point shooter, and I think he’s deserving of that recognition; it’s no secret that teams have to restrategize their defense to make sure that Robinson is covered at all points beyond the arc—especially on off-ball screens. His ball release is lightning fast, and he’s more than capable of knocking down tough, contested shots, so it would be a lie to say he isn’t a concern defensively for other teams—but that’s only when he’s on, and the problem is that he’s not always on.
For a player as inconsistent as Robinson, he also lacks versatility; on a night when his shooting is off, Robinson isn’t dynamic enough as a player (at least not yet) to be able to substitute three-point shots with more aggressive attacks to the basket or even with just a more playmaking role. Personally, I think Bill Simmons and other commentators are correct in pigeonholing Robinson as a defensive liability who can sometimes make three-pointers, and I’d be happy to see him go. Unlike Herro and Nunn—who have improved immensely in their short professional careers—Robinson doesn’t seem to show any potential to be as well-rounded as those two young guys, and by letting him go, the Heat open up financial room that gives them a chance at seeing the playoffs this season.
Right behind Robinson, I wouldn’t mind seeing Goran Dragic part ways with Miami. Personally, I love Dragic’s style of play—I have a soft spot for pure-bred point guards whose offensive contributions have more to do with intelligence and full-court vision, facilitating an offense more than focusing on raw athleticism or anything else. But with that being said, Dragic is 34 years old, and unlike some players who are even older than Dragic and still playing at full force, “The Dragon” seems to be showing his age in recent games. In my opinion, it’d be in the Heat’s favor to trade Dragic when other teams might still think he has some fuel left in the tank. By trading him sooner rather than later, the Heat might manage a lopsided trade in their favor.
Obviously, there are some other guys deeper down their roster that the Heat could do without, but Robinson and Dragic seem to be the clearest bigger-name options to let go. And what would the Heat get in return for Robinson, Dragic, and a couple of other guys like James Johnson and Justise Winslow?
It’s simple: the Heat need a star. The chances of acquiring the Greek Freak have long been out of the question, and now they need to figure out another way to get their hands on someone big. Yes, depth is important to any team, and the little dreamer in me likes the idea of competing with only Bam, Butler, and Herro as our “stars,” but the truth is that trio doesn’t stand a chance against the Sixers, Nets, or Bucks. So, what’s more important than depth? Having two to three guys on the floor who you can take control of a game at any given moment.
I’ve always loved Chris Paul, and even though he’s later in his career, I think his age and veteran status—plus his playing style that has the potential to mesh well with the Heat’s offense—would serve the team well. For that reason, I think the Heat’s best potential trade deal is picking up Chris Paul and Andre Roberson, which would fill the open gap at point guard without Dragic and would also give them a scorer (Paul) and defensive player (Roberson)—plus a first-round pick, as well. Even though there are some potential players that the Heat could pick up that might be better than Paul and Roberson, those trades would likely require losing Tyler Herro, which I don’t think would be wise of the Heat. Herro is budding into a player that can be great—and the Heat’s future with both him and Bam could be something special.
By acquiring Chris Paul, Miami would be adding a playmaker and scorer they desperately need while still maintaining a potentially bright future with Tyler Herro, which I think is the smartest long-game decision the organization can make at this point.